Our misuse of technology is making us selfish

Zara DeGroot

When I was in high school, Facebook was all the rave. Everyone had an account. Except for me, because my parents forbade me out of fear that I would over-share information, meet weird people and get in trouble. Or worse — get addicted to it, fail out of school and ruin my future. But after a bit of convincing, my parents let me start an account. Under one condition: my GPA stays the same or raises. Facebook would not supersede academia.

And it didn’t — at least for a while. After getting bitten by the social media bug, I couldn’t log off. Yes, my GPA did go down and my parents were proven right once again — social media and technology were addictive.

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In the years that followed, I continued to explore the digital worlds of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, and used all of them on various versions of the iPhone. The past five years of my life have been documented among these numerous social media outlets.

However, as a young adult yearning for more in life than just an abundance of Instagram likes, I’m realizing the absurdity of how we are using technology and social media, and more importantly, the cost of it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being present on social media — I love a good Twitter game and pictures of a beautiful brunch. Scrolling is an easy way to pass time. Looking at people’s pictures is fun. Feeling like you’re experiencing that beautiful brunch from your darkened room is priceless. 

But it is about time that we reconsider our social media habits and reassess the amount of time and effort we are placing on these platforms because they are changing the way we interact with others and with the world. 

Technology is revolutionary. The fact that we have vast amounts of information just a few clicks away is incredible, and something that should never be taken for granted. Yet, the way we are operating technology is not ideal and the consequences are negative. 

More importantly, what I have noticed recently, is that our active presence in the digital world is reshaping our awareness of the real world — how we interact with those around us and how we view ourselves. In a time where we are constantly trying to project our ideal selves through social media, it is easy to become self-centered and narrow-minded. In this way, our obsession with technology is affecting our empathy and spoiling the goodness that we have to offer to others. 

Psychologist Sherry Turkle explained it perfectly, and loads more eloquently, in a TED Talk in 2012. Turkle has been studying the human relationship with technology for close to 20 years now.

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Turkle further discusses the role technology plays in our lives. 

“We need to draw lines between different kinds of functions, and they won’t be straight lines,” Turkle said. “We need to know what business functions can be better served by a machine. There are aspects of training that machines excel at — for example, providing information — but there are aspects of mentoring that are about encouragement and creating a relationship, so you might want to have another person in that role.”

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She’s right. We are replacing human connection and relationships with some type of technology. Why? Because it’s an easy remedy to filling the void of loneliness we can feel. And in that case, I would argue that technology is making us even more narcissistic. Many of us would rather text than meet in person or even call. We’re opting out of human interaction for more time on a technological device, and in my opinion, that’s pretty selfish.

Like Turkle said, technology is there for us, especially when we think no one else is. But of course we feel like no one is there for us — we’re all paying more attention to our phones than each other. The digital world has become less of a channel for practicality and resourcefulness, and more like a crutch for us when we are feeling isolated. 

There’s no doubt we have fallen into the sweet seduction of technology and all of its offerings. And it’s up to us, loyal media consumers, to use it for the better. Technology should be a benefit, not a distraction.

Keep using social media. Continue posting selfies and photos of your dog and your beautiful brunch — I will follow you and like all of those. But don’t let your social media you outweigh the physical you. Don’t let your internet presence hinder the good you can offer to this world, or the good that you can receive. 

Collegian columnist is fearing she lacks the motivation necessary to succeed in any field. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @zar_degroot.